In The Fade (2018)

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Directed by Fatih Akin
Country: Germany / France

Turkish-born German filmmaker Fatih Akin, author of gems like “Head-On” and “The  Edge of Heaven”, thoughtfully returns to the drama genre after last year’s so-so coming-of-age adventure “Goodbye Berlin”.

In The Fade” stars Cannes-awarded actress Diane Kruger (“Unknown”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Disorder”) as Katja Sekerci, a woman living in Hamburg, whose happy life is suddenly shaken by the assassination of her husband and 6-year-old child in a Nazi conspiracy consummated with a nail-bomb attack. The first images show us Nuri Sekerci (Numan Acar), a Kurdish living in Germany, being applauded as he leaves his prison cell all dressed up to get married to Katja. Although convicted for drug trafficking in the past, when the film advances to the first of its three chapters, we see him completely rehabilitated, managing his own tax office, where he also helps fellow countrymen with document translations.

A certain day, Katja arrives at his office, located in the Turkish neighborhood, to drop off their son before going to meet her best friend Birgit (Samia Muriel Chancrin). On her way out, she notices a young woman, later identified as Edda Moller (Hanna Hilsdorf), placing a brand new bike in front of the office and then walking away. The bicycle was purposely left unchained. Later in the evening, she went to pick them up, but was informed there was an explosion in that specific area. It was an agonizing shock when the two unrecognizable bodies of a man and a kid were confirmed to be the members of her family. This harrowing reality impels her to take drugs in order to numb the pain. 

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Officer Gerrit Reetz (Henning Peker) is the one leading the investigation and wonders if Nuri was still working for the Turkish Mafia as a dealer. Was this a retaliation? If not, who could have done such an evil act? The Eastern Europeans? A Nazi faction? 

Following a dramatic court session where the culprits are nauseatingly acquitted of the killings using a false alibi, Katja, in the impossibility of appeasing her soul and find relief, chases them down, traveling to Greece with a radical plan.

Akin’s approach favors as much the tense moments as the emotionally disturbing ones, only sporadically deflecting to unimaginative territories through superfluous maneuvers. Probably the most gratuitous scene happens when Katja attempts to kill herself, saved at the last minute by the phone call of her lawyer and family friend Danilo Fava (Denis Moschitto). 

Still, “In The Fade” was conceived with strong performances and never softens up, even when giving signs of momentarily wobbling. After the tragic, visceral finale, and before the closing credits, the director points out the xenophobe crimes committed by the members of Neo-Nazi group National Socialism Underground.

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Goodbye Berlin (2016)

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Directed by Fatih Akin
Country: Germany

German director of Turkish descent, Fatih Akin, belongs to that group of filmmakers that struggle at some point in their careers after a brilliant start replete with numerous accolades. His undeniable talent was materialized in many prizes with top-rated dramas such as “Head-On”, winner of the Golden Berlin Bear in 2004, and “The Edge of Heaven”, Cannes best screenplay and prize of the ecumenical jury in 2007. Even when he adventured himself in comedy with “Soul Kitchen”, the results weren’t bad at all, but his following steps, the documentary “Garbage in the Garden of Eden” and the drama “The Cut”, related to the Armenian genocide, didn’t bring the usual gratification to the fans of his cinema. That’s why his next move was awaited with some expectation.

Mr. Akin opted to have a go at the widely explored coming-of-age topic with the comedy drama “Goodbye Berlin”, starring Tristan Gobel and the debutant Anand Batbileg as two teen fugitives from Berlin during the summer holidays.
 
Gobel is Maik Klingenberg, a 14-year-old Berliner whose character intrigues due to a staggering mix of naivety and honesty. He loses his self-confidence when Tatjana (Aniya Wendel), the schoolmate he’s in love with, doesn’t invite him to her birthday party. His apathetic state doesn’t get better when his teacher rebukes him for a composition in which he tells about his alcoholic mother and her considerable time spent in the spa, a funnier way of addressing the rehabilitation clinic, where she willingly goes when stepping off the limits.

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His sad days come to an end after he befriends the new student, Tschik (Batbileg), a delinquent Jewish-gipsy orphan with a tough-adult attitude and whose doubtful reputation is reinforced by the rumors that he’s associated with the Russian mafia. Both decide to embark on a road trip in a stolen blue Lada Niva, listening to Richard Clayderman’s “Ballade Pour Adeline” and embracing every strange occurrence and encounter with a burning passion proper from their age. 
While heading to Wallachia, where Tschick’s grandparents live, they bump into Isa (Mercedes Müller), a starving, smelly girl with candid blue eyes who asks for a ride after helping them stealing gas. She intends to catch the bus that will take her to Prague, where her half-sister lives, but not before flirting with the tremulous Maik.

Confessions, promises, and a mutual understanding that feels truly sweet, bolster the trio’s friendship.
Akin reserves the best thrills to the final part, when the troublemakers Maik and Tschik are forced to change direction to escape the police, with unfortunate consequences that could have had much worse repercussions.

Based on Wolfgang Herrndorf's best-selling 2010 novel "Why We Took the Car”, the film shows how Fatih Akin is an adaptable filmmaker, whose interesting vision gets limited and blurred whenever he doesn’t go deeper than the surface, whether emotionally or narratively. 

The feel-good “Goodbye Berlin”, in all its audacity and insubordination, doesn’t break new ground but didn’t let me down either. Even with ups and downs in its fluidity, and with levels of entertainment that oscillate between the good and the average, I didn’t feel that my time had been wasted in the end.

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